Despite Religious Critics, Health Care Reform Expands Birth Control Choice
ALTON PARK, Fla. – Provisions of the Affordable Care Act that expand preventive health services for women, including birth control, go into effect today. There has been some controversy over this part of the new health care law, but as a nurse and a Catholic, Patricia Diaz of Alton Park, Florida, is among those speaking out. Diaz sees it as a tremendous step forward for women and their families.
She does not believe that it interferes with personal religious beliefs, but instead ensures that all women have equal access to quality, preventive health care.
“It gives the woman the decision to decide what her family size will be. It gives her control over her life.”
The law requires that all new health insurance plans cover services with no cost-sharing or co-pays, including mammograms, Pap tests and contraception. Churches and religious institutions are exempt from the provision, although the law’s opponents are taking issue with the fact that “religiously-affiliated” employers, such as hospitals, universities and nonprofits, are not exempt. Supporters of the new law say an employer should have no place in the family planning process.
According to Diaz, this is another example of what she terms “extremist Republicans playing politics with a woman’s health.” She does not believe the policy has religious underpinnings, but views it simply as sound health policy. She notes that birth control use is nearly universal among women of child-bearing age, and that 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control at some point in their lives.
In 28 states, she adds, religiously-affiliated hospitals and institutions are already required to include contraceptives in insurance coverage under state law.
“There are circumstances that a woman needs a contraceptive. And I think it should be offered and be her choice, whether she wants to use it or not. ”
Under the law, no woman will be forced to buy or use contraception and no doctor will be forced to prescribe it. According to some estimates, without health insurance coverage, a woman’s costs for contraception can average from $150 to $600 a year.